Famed Atheist Richard Dawkins appeared on the John Stewart show to promote Dawkins’ new book An Appetite for Wonder. The book, a memoir, chronicles Dawkins’ journey from religious Christian to non-believing scientist. In it, he reveals details about his personal life and his time as a child in a boy’s school. The book also discusses how Dawkins grew to abandon his religious beliefs and turn to a life of science.
During the interview about his new book, Stewart asked him what happens to us after we die. Dawkins paused for a moment and Stewart said “so, you don’t know?” Dawkins said we would either be cremated, donated to science or buried. Stewart then said “you actually don’t know what happens to us,” and Dawkins replied, “I don’t know what happens to us but I know that our consciousness is wrapped up in our brains and I know that our brains rot. There doesn’t seem to be any reason, other than wishful thinking to-“ he was cut off by Stewart at that point, who asked Dawkins if he agreed that there is “a possibility” that consciousness could go on after death, and Dawkins said “Well, there is a possibilty for all sorts of things…”
He went on to say “faith means belief without evidence and you shouldn’t believe anything without evidence…Just because something brings us comfort, it doesn’t make it true.” Dawkins also said that “phsyics is incomplete” and that we don’t yet really know “how the universe works.” He said that physcis has “a long way to go” before we come to understand the workings of the universe and the answer to the big questions. Dawkins said that the concept of our surviving beyond our deaths was akin to magical thinking, explaining that there is “something beyond us; there are many things we don’t understand, but the particular thing of surviving our own death (is) palpable wishful thinking that goes against everything we understand about how the nervous system works…we are apes, we are African apes.”
Despite admitting to “a possibility” that some kind of consciousness goes on after death, Dawkins made it clear that by “possibility” he means that it is highly improbable. He implies that since our brains create our consciousness, and our brains die when we die, the possibility of consciousness continuing after death is most likely none. Still, since science has yet to answer the most pressing questions about how the universe works and why we are here, holding on to the belief in something that goes on after we die is a powerful comfort to millions. However, as Dawkins points out, just because something brings comfort does not make it true.
He goes on to say that Religion is “destructive to the human intellect” because it discourages rational thought. His foundation is dedicated to reason, science and rational thinking. Toward the end of the interview, Dawkins brought up a point about our ancestors “going somewhere” after they died. He posited-since we evolved from animals, at what point would we have started “going somewhere” after we die? Stewart did not have an answer for that, but ended the session on a comical note by asking Dawkins “do you want to get high later?” Richard Dawkins ‘wonders’ what happens after we die, but even though he’s not 100% certain, he makes it apparent that he’s still pretty darn sure that the answer to that question is “nothing.”
By: Rebecca Savastio